Old School Wallets for Today’s Tech Geeks

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Being a parent, you know how important a wallet can be because it seems like you are forever having to pull it out of your pocket. If you are going to use something that often, why not make sure it has a touch of class and serves a secondary function? Maybe go a little “old school”…

(Architect's Wallet, iPhone 6, Charette Wallet - Photo by Skip Owens)
(Architect’s Wallet, iPhone 6, Charette Wallet – Photo by Skip Owens)

In today’s high-tech world, it is refreshing to see some really innovative products that mix class with old school tech, and the wallets by form•function•form (FFF) totally fit the bill. (Sorry, that pun was just too easy!) I’ve gone through a lot of wallets over the years, but I’ve never really owned a wallet that I was super impressed with. So when I ran across an article about an FFF wallet called the Architect’s Wallet, I knew I needed check it out. So I contacted FFF and they were kind enough to send me not only the Architect’s Wallet to review but a newer wallet, the Charette, to review as well. So I tried out these wallets, each of them separately for a week.

First, a little bit about FFF. FFF is based just down the road from me in Orlando, Florida. What sets them apart from so many companies is their attention to detail. Every one of their products is not only striking to look at but well designed for the task in which it was intended.

From the “About the Brand” section of the FFF website:

form•function•form?
Louis Sullivan, mentor to iconic American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, adopted a phrase over 100 years ago which became almost a mantra for the Modernist architecture movement. ‘Form Follows Function’ is the popularly known version, prioritizing function over form-or at least believing that the appropriate form will emerge after a careful consideration of a new design’s function.

(Architect's Wallet in Natural Chromexcel with the raw brass pen - Photo by Skip Owens)
(Architect’s Wallet in Natural Chromexcel with the raw brass pen – Photo by Skip Owens)

The first wallet I tried out was the one that drew me to FFF to begin with, the Architect’s Wallet in Natural Chromexcel with the raw brass pen. From the “Architect’s Wallet Description” on the FFF website:

The Architect’s Wallet eliminates the multiple layers of paper-thin leather dividers of typical wallets, in favor of minimalism and usability. Instead of dozens of cute little slots, it incorporates a write-anywhere Fisher Space Pen and a take-anywhere extra small Moleskine Volant notebook that is slightly larger than a credit card.

What originally drew me to the Architect’s Wallet was its simplicity, rugged leather look, and old school charm. It really did look like something a real hands-on kind of professional like an architect would pull out of his pocket. Being the total space geek that I am, the Fisher Space Pen was also a huge draw. Then to top it all off, I just got done reviewing the new Moleskin Pro Collection of notebooks and accessories a few months back, so obviously I am also a huge Moleskin fan to boot. Simple leather design, space pen, and a Moleskin Notebook? I’m sold! So from my perspective, what’s not to like about this wallet? The only hesitation I had going in was the size. I really don’t like having a lot of things in my pockets. I tend to wear dress pants into work quite a bit, and having a big bulky phone or wallet along for the ride in my front pockets all day was something I have avoided for many years. So much so, that on the rare occasion I do carry a wallet it is a very slim minimalist wallet (a few credits cards and maybe a paper bill or two). Most of the time my wallet stays in my computer bag. (Ok, my kids call it my man purse.) So when I tried out the Architect’s Wallet for a week I decided to break away from my previous habits and carry the wallet in my pocket everyday.

The first thing I noticed with the Architect’s Wallet is that it fit in my pocket very comfortably. Having not carried a wallet in my pocket on a regular basis for many years now, that is saying a lot. I also got a heck of a lot of use from always having a pen in my pocket. I had no idea I had that many uses for a pen during the week! Being a tech guy, I also wasn’t so sure I would really have much use for carrying around a small paper notebook. Isn’t that what your smart phone is for? But I was wrong. During my week with the wallet I had to go out into a facility for a test of some equipment and this facility didn’t allow cell phones. We were getting ready to start the test and we needed a way to record the data (it was a very simple test, no recording equipment), but nobody had their smart phones to jot down the numbers. No problem, I just pulled out my wallet, opened up my little Moleskin notebook, and was ready to start writing down some numbers with my Fisher Space Pen. Who needs smart phone technology when you have your handy wallet in your pocket? Even outside of that single event, I found myself taking advantage of writing down quick notes, numbers, and reminders in my wallet notebook throughout the day, and then at the end of the day making sure I grabbed all of that data and put it into the electronic system it needed to be permanently saved in (like my task list, calendar, or journal).

(Charette Wallet in Color #8 with a matte black pen - Photo by Skip Owens)
(Charette Wallet in Color #8 with a matte black pen – Photo by Skip Owens)

Week two of my wallet test drive was of the Charette in Color #8 with a matte black pen. The Charette is an interesting twist on the Architect’s Wallet because of several design features:

  • The Space Pen is not riveted into the wallet and can be removed completely, or just easily uncapped and then put back in place.
  • The wallet closes on itself like a little notebook, instead of being a single piece of leather like the Architect’s Wallet
  • The front flap of the wallet has individual card slots, making cards easier to find and access cards

I’ll be honest, I really didn’t think I was going to like this wallet. The Charette didn’t have the unique and simple look of the Architect’s Wallet, and I thought because it had a front cover that it would a bulkier wallet to carry around. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There is a reason the Charette came out after the Architect’s Wallet–they implemented design features in the Charette based on feedback they had received from customers about the Architect’s Wallet–and then in December of 2014 the design of the Charette was refined further… FFF has darn near perfected the wallet!

Ok, maybe I am exaggerating just a bit. For how I use and carry a wallet, the Charette is essentially the perfect wallet for me. The front flap on the wallet now completely encloses the Moleskin Notebook within the wallet. This is important for me because I live in Florida and things get hot. The last thing you want is for the paper in your notebook to get all sweaty. This keeps that from happening. The front cover, instead of making the wallet bulky like I feared, instead allows the wallet to slide easily in and out of my pocket. (Remember my opening comment? I’m a Dad and my kids always need me to pull out my wallet). The individual slots on the front cover for cards make it really easy to find and access cards, and each of these slots will easily each hold a couple of cards. The last feature that put the Charette in the perfect category for me was that it holds more cash than the Architect’s Wallet. I travel a lot for work and at times I just have to carry a lot of cash. Because of the Charette’s design, it is less rigid than the Architect’s Wallet and will allow you to carry more paper bills.

In summary, both the Architect’s Wallet and the Charette are impressively designed wallets. Even though they have a Fisher Space Pen and a small Moleskin Notebook attached to them they are still relatively low profile wallets to carry around, even in the front pocket of dress pants. Their high quality leather and unique design make them a joy to carry around and use from day to day, and the utility of having a pen and paper with you at all times was surprisingly useful (even for a paperless tech geek that relies on his iPhone). I plan to be carrying around the Charette as my wallet for many years to come. I suspect that many of you will also find one of these wallets a good fit as well.

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